The Center Of Attention

YAO MING is 22, an AllStar, the future of the Houston Rockets, the savior of the NBA and American business's most promising link to China. He's also very, very tall

Tony Ronzone is basketball's premier frequent flyer. He has coached in Saudi Arabia, searched for a point guard in Montenegro, evaded Yugoslav border police to scout a power forward and twice visited North Korea to peek at a 7ft. 9-in. center. One September day in 1998, Ronzone was conducting a hoops clinic in Shanghai when he received an invitation to an 18th-birthday party. The birthday boy was quick, graceful--and 7 ft. 3 in. tall. Ronzone accepted. "The parents were there, maybe a few Chinese officials," Ronzone recalls. "We're all stuffed into this apartment the size of a room at the Courtyard...

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